Ask a South African Anglican how to reconcile and restore, or receive and repent, and the answers are likely to flow from the depths of experience in dismantling apartheid.
Skilled in bridging not only chasms between Christians but gaps in global awareness, the Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Rev. Njongonkulu Ndungane, primate of the Anglican Province of Southern Africa, is among church leaders who will join Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold Thursday evening in presenting a Convention-wide forum calling the church to strengthen its role as a reconciler of global and local tensions.
All are invited to the forum, titled "Engage God's Mission," from 7 until 9 p.m. at St. Mark's Cathedral. Speakers will underscore basic injustices in the world that some suffer while others are comfortable; that some have much while others have little and ask that church members work toward justice and equality, or global reconciliation.
Planners say the forum will be a time to confront not only socioeconomic but spiritual forms of separation between people, gulfs that are apartheid-like in their sting and systematization.
"Our prayer book tells us that the mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ," Griswold noted in recent comments on the forum. "I think the mission of the Church is to participate in God's work, in God's mission."
A goal of the forum, planners say, is to broaden the participants' perspectives and make them witnesses to the suffering and unrest in the world. It will reinforce the church's responsibility to alleviate pain and injustice felt outside of the United States as well as within.
Griswold will open the program and briefly discuss the mission of global reconciliation. Ndungane will speak about the problems he has encountered in his province, which include the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS, crippling poverty and violence
In a recent statement carried by the Anglican Communion News Service, Ndungane spoke about the injustice he has witnessed in South Africa. Ndungane said the Anglican Communion "must focus on mission."
"We are faced with matters of life and death," he said. "Seventy-five percent of the world's people who are living with HIV or AIDS are in sub-Saharan Africa. People are constantly dying and being infected and there are severe cases of poverty, many people go hungry every day and there are instances of children taking turns to have breakfast."
Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University professor and economic advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, will speak about the hopeful future of the troubled world. Sachs will discuss the possibilities that lie before Episcopalians and other members of the world community to ease the suffering of others.
Testimonials from three young adults, all of whom work for the cause of global reconciliation, will round out the evening. Youth has not been a barrier to these influential Episcopalians, whose credentials already include work with the United Nations, the World Bank, and Episcopal Relief and Development.
The young adult presenters are: Abigail Nelson, the director of Latin American Programs for Episcopal Relief and Development; Ranjit Mathews, an intern at the Office of the Anglican Observer at the UN; and the Rev. Dr. Sabina Alkire, who works with the UN Human Security Program and the World Bank.
"I think [the forum] is going to be a lot of ideas not just a lot of information," said Nicole Seiferth, communications aide to the presiding bishop. "I imagine the audience will come away inspired by what they will see."
The forum's venue holds special significance for Episcopalians. Just as Minneapolis will always be remembered as the place where women were made priests in 1976 it was also Griswold's first convention as a deputy St. Mark's has been known for almost 50 years for its relationship to the worldwide Anglican Communion.
The cathedral was the site of the first World Anglican Congress in 1954, which drew delegates to Minneapolis to talk about the church's world mission. A Compass Rose now the internationally-recognized symbol of the worldwide Anglican Communion was designed in St. Mark's at the congress. The Compass Rose is still in St. Mark's today, a testament to the Anglican Communion's sense of global responsibility.
In 2001, Griswold and the House of Bishops met and dedicated the Episcopal Church to working toward global reconciliation. After the tragedy of Sept. 11, the case for global reconciliation became even more urgent.
This is the first General Convention since America lost thousands of its citizens in the terrorist attacks. It is also the first convention since global reconciliation became an important mission of the Episcopal Church. At Thursday's forum, participants will have a chance to look beyond the joys and tribulations of the United States, and learn how they can better serve the Anglican Communion and the world.
"Reconciliation is God's work in us," Griswold wrote in a recent column in Episcopal Life. "It is our way of participating in the ongoing work of Christ, which is the drawing of all people and all things to himself."